Rev Up Your Walking Workout
To reap even healthier benefits from your daily walk, consider the following:
- Choose the correct shoes. Comfort is key. When shopping for walking shoes, wear a thicker sock that will simulate the swelling of your feet on longer distances.
- Accessorize. Other than good shoes, walking really requires no additional equipment. However, there are a few items that may improve your walk and, more importantly, keep you motivated! A pedometer can track how many steps or the distance you travel. A heart monitor will help to keep you in the right cardiovascular zone. And a portable music player can provide you with music and tempo to walk to (be sure to keep the volume low enough that you can hear traffic and other sounds).
- Stretch. Spend a little time warming up before and cooling down after you walk with a few simple stretches. This will help flush lactic acid out of your muscles and reduce stiffness.
- Pay attention to your breathing. Start your walk with a few deep breaths. When you start to walk, breathe in a pattern that relates to your steps. You should be able to carry on a conversation while you walk.
- Use your arms. Keep your elbows bent at a 90-degree angle, relax your shoulders and pump those arms!
- Try interval speeds. Mix up your normal pace with a variety of taking smaller steps, then longer strides. Brief “bursts” during a walk can double your calorie burn.
- Add some weights. A weighted vest is the best option because it centers the weight. If you use hand held or ankle weights, be careful they don’t disrupt your normal, natural movements.
- Try some poles. Nordic walking (walking with poles) helps you to engage all muscle groups. Recent studies have shown that Nordic walking burns more calories, increases oxygen consumption and can be 46% more efficient than normal walking.
- Sideways walking. Even a few steps sideways works a different set of muscles in your hips and legs.
- Track your heart rate. Find your maximum heart rate by subtracting your age from 220, and aim to work between 60 percent and 80 percent of that number. A heart rate monitor will let you know when you need to work harder or ease up.
- Mix it up so you don’t get bored.
Weekly Walking Plan
Here is a simple seven-day plan to add some variety to your walks. Exertion is based on a scale of 1–10 with 1 being very easy and 10 being maximum effort:
- Day 1: 30 minute or longer walk at a steady pace. Exertion: 7.
- Day 2: Brisk walk for 10 minutes followed by 2-3 minutes of stretching and bending. Moderate walk 10, with 2-3 minutes of stretching. Relaxed walk for 10. Exertion: 6.
- Day 3: Find a route that has more hills than usual. If on a treadmill, increase the incline. If on a flat surface, incorporate stairs. Exertion: 7.
- Day 4: A day of rest (or slow, relaxed walk).
- Day 5: Repeat walk/stretch routine of Day Two.
- Day 6: Interval walking of 5 minutes steady pace, 1 minute brisk, 5 minutes steady, 1 minute brisk, 5 minutes relaxed, 1 minute brisk, 5 minutes steady, 5 minutes relaxed. Exertion: 6 during steady pace, 9 during one-minute brisk bursts.
- Day 7: Easy, meditative walk. Exertion: five or six.
View more tips on walking in our Health Library.